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Embezzlement. Tucson Museum of Arts ex-accountant arraigned in $973,000 theft

Tucson Museum of Arts worker arraigned in $973,000 theft

By Kim Smith.
Arizona Daily Star.
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 05.04.2009.

A former Tucson Museum of Arts employee was arraigned Monday afternoon on charges alleging she stole $973,000 from the museum between 2003 and 2008.

Ruth Sons pleaded not guilty to three counts of fraud, three counts of theft and one count of illegally conducting an enterprise in Pima County Superior Court.
If convicted at trial, Sons could be placed on probation or receive up to 80 years in prison, said Assistant Attorney General Mike Jette.

During Sons’ brief appearance before Pima County hearing officer Roger Duncan it was revealed Sons is currently participating in a gambling addiction treatment program in Minnesota and hopes to get permission to return to that state to continue getting treatment.

The Arizona Daily Start first reported in January that the Tucson police and the state Attorney General’s Office were investigating an unidentified former employee of the museum for theft.

An affidavit filed by police to obtain a search warrant for Sons’ home said investigators had records showing Sons forged and cashed 209 Tucson Museum of Art checks totaling $323,256 between May 13, 2006, and Nov. 11, 2008.

The checks – in amounts ranging from less than $600 to just shy of $1,900 – were cashed at two check-cashing businesses on West St. Mary’s Road: 150 totaling $233,036.87 at one and 59 checks totaling $90,219.14 at the other, the affidavit said.
Investigators removed documents, bank statements, a computer, a number of credit cards and casino players’ cards, receipts and cash from Son’s Northwest Side double-wide mobile home, according to court documents.

The search warrant affidavit said police had investigated a Desert Diamond Casino players card in Sons’ name. Sons’, police said in the affidavit, had logged “approximately $2.4 million” in casino play.

At the time of the search warrant, police officials said Sons had worked for the museum in a financial capacity for 18 years and had resigned late last year.
Officials said the museum contacted police on Dec. 17 after realizing that between $200,000 and $300,000 was not accounted for.

In a written statement released back then, Tucson Museum of Art Executive Director Robert Knight said the museum discovered the discrepancy during a full, independent audit of its books.

“The Tucson Museum of Art routinely reviews and improves internal procedures, and annually conducts full, independent financial audits,” Knight said in the statement. “It was through such an audit review that an unexplained loss and evidence of possible criminal activity was identified.”

The Tucson Museum of Art was established in 1924 as the Tucson Fine Arts Association. It changed its name to the Tucson Museum of Art in 1975, when it moved to 140 N. Main Ave., according to the museum’s Web site. The museum is best known for its “Art of the American West” collection, which includes several notable pre-Columbian works.

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